Sunday, September 27, 2009


Lantern is all about reflection, human nature and family, regardless of race or culture.

Set in present day Auckland, the play which kicks off on Monday follows the fictional Chen family.

But what gives this play its lustre, is that as the story unfolds whole audiences recognise not just facets of themselves, but also snippets of their own stories played out on stage.

Lantern’s writer is Remuera-based Renee Liang, who is a poet, a playwright, and – surprisingly – a paediatrician. She is also working on her first novel.

While medicine is her calling, writing is her passion.

She is one of the organisers of Poetry Live, Auckland’s long-running weekly poetry gig and admits that she is always trying to get more people to write and read poetry.

A member of the Guerilla poets – who etch words in chalk on Auckland pavements – she’s done everything from random poetry readings at bus stops to chairing the poetry session at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Nor does she shy away from real things, and this trait contributes to her work’s fearless honesty and insights.

"I gave 18 years of my life solely to medicine, and then something happened. My partner died. I was in shock and couldn’t do anything for two days.

"What I eventually did though, was pick up a pen – and write a poem for him.

"And it was like that unleashed the floodgates. I wrote for about a year, poems to him," she says.

"Then one day, I was writing about other things. And then came the first love poem I wrote, that wasn’t for him, but was for my current partner.

"I believe very much that one thing leads to another, and with writing in particular that is the case. I’m still exploring fields, genres, formats – all the ways there are to express feelings, thoughts, ideas," she says.

She says her training in medicine has taught her to look at what’s beneath the surface, and that’s what she does in her writing.

"I’m curious about people and I let that show, and in their response to me, they give me insights into what’s really there, under all the surface stuff.

"What is really interesting is the disconnection that so many people feel, which has nothing to do with race or culture.

"Sometimes our isolation is what we actually share," she says.

Miss Liang has immersed herself in all aspects of play writing, a wide range of genres of artistic expression and collaborations and involvement in a dizzying variety of artistic groups from fringe festivals to Read Raw to Flip the Script, Smack Bang and other private collaborations.
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She says Lantern is at its heart, a play about family.

It involves two actors who play 10 characters over 85 minutes.

The actors are two of New Zealand’s best-known Chinese actors, Shortland Street’s Li-Ming Hu and Andy Wong from Ride with the Devil and No 2.

Audience members are invited to add their own poetry to a lantern installation in the foyer.

Lantern runs from Monday to June 13 at The Basement, lower Greys Ave, Auckland.

For ticket information go to or call 357-3355.

Paediatrician's play all about the family

By KAREN KOTZE - East And Bays Courier
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2009

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